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Fifteen Thoughts on Happy Valley

Fifteen Thoughts on Happy Valley

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  1. This is a female character-driven show. Basically all the good, smart, brave, and interesting shit that happens on this show happens because of a good, smart, brave and interesting woman.
  1. It’s complicated. The initial action of the show centers on sergeant Catherine Cawood pursuit of the man who is suspected of raping her daughter. She has no proof other than her daughter’s cryptic suicide note. What complicates this scenario is that this rapist is probably the father of Cawood’s grandson, who she has raised since her daughter’s death.

  1. This is a BBC show, so you know it’s quality. Seriously, can these folks make anything that sucks?
  1. The show’s creator (and head writer) is a woman, Sally Wainwright. This explains how # 1 is possible, I think.
  2. Cathrine Cawood has a sex life. She is sleeping with her ex-husband, who is currently re-married, and is unapologetic about this arrangement. I haven’t seen such an honest approach to an older women’s libido since Blanche on The Golden Girls. Except there are no slut jokes here, and the weather is English dreariness, not hot Miami.
  1. Really strong female characters. It’s not that the male characters are not important – they are, and in fact they are responsible for orchestrating the terrible crime that is at the center of the show. It’s the women characters that endure, survive, figure shit out, rescue, and protect. But it’s not like all women in the show are awesome and all men are fools. That would be too easy, and this is a BBC show (see # 3).
  1. There’s a lot of nuance to each character. I particularly like the portrayal of Jenny Weatherill, who is disabled and makes morally dubious decisions. Nothing on the static and no character is presented as an innocent soul, which is quite refreshing. American crime dramas tend to show characters with just one or two sides, bad and sad, bad and angry, but in Happy Valley we get to see a much broader range of possibilities.
  1. Mom roles! In Happy Valley, moms are tough, tender, smart, weak, greedy, withdrawn, flawed. Again, there is a complexity here that is often absent “mom characters.”
  1. Ladies, trust your guts. Catherine Cawood does, and that’s part of what makes her a great police sergeant and a really fun character to watch. There’s nothing like watching a dumb detective stumble around for a bunch of hours trying to connect the dots on a difficult case. Cawood is the opposite. She. Does. Not. Back. Down. She asks questions, follows up on weird leads, and basically moves her investigation forward by any means necessary. She’s scary and I like it.
  1. There is resolution, but there is also a promise of another season. The show feels like it could leave you hanging, but it does a nice job of walking through Cawood’s journey of grief and recovery, yet leaving something open for season two.
  1. There’s nothing a good cup of tea won’t fix. Kidnapping? Murder? Fist fight? A cup of teach follows all terrible events, and I’m totally on board with that.
  1. I had to watch it with subtitles because I just cannot understand what is being said without them.
  1. It’s a smart show and I think you will love Catherine Cawood as much as I do.
  1. In one episode Cawood sports a totally blood-shut eye and looks like the terminator. It’s badass.
  1. This is what Dick Wolf could have been doing instead of writing so many terrible Law & Order episodes.


Natalie Lyalin

About The Author

Natalie Lyalin

Natalie Lyalin is the author of two books of poetry, Blood Makes Me Faint, But I Go For It (Ugly Duckling Presse 2014), and Pink & Hot Pink Habitat (Coconut Books 2009), as well as a chapbook, Try A Little Time Travel (Ugly Duckling Presse 2010). She is the co-editor of Natural History Press. She lives in Philadelphia.

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